We need to talk about Holger Osieck

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It has been a strange week for Holger Osieck. No sooner had the Socceroos coach finally garnered some popular support than he went and almost ruined it all with a pointlessly insensitive gaffe.

Making sexist remarks is never acceptable – a fact made abundantly clear to Osieck in the same week Australia’s politicians sunk to new lows – though anyone who has met the German would know he’s not exactly a stark-raving misogynist.

I dare say Osieck has more important things to worry about - namely qualifying for the World Cup - and it should be pointed out that his clumsy off-the-cuff remark was made in a language which is not his native tongue.

What has been largely overlooked in the fallout from Osieck’s thoughtless comment is the fact he was trying to engage with the media in the first place.

It’s a point worth noting from a coach who gave the press short shrift when he first arrived in Australia, generally treating local journalists with a mixture of haughty indifference and outright disdain.

So what has changed from the days when Osieck snapped back terse one-liners in post-match TV interviews during the beginning of his reign?

Well, the fact that a growing number of Australians no longer want him to coach the Socceroos, for one thing.

A new Football Federation Australia chief executive eager to make his mark in David Gallop may not have helped Osieck’s cause either.

Nor will the increasingly vocal pack of pundits who have come to question just about every facet of Osieck’s reign; from tactics to player selection and perhaps most pointedly, his failure to revitalise the national team in any meaningful way.

The straw that broke the camel’s back was that insipid 2-2 with Oman in Sydney and not even four points from a possible six in his next two competitive fixtures should dim the glare of the media spotlight.

It will all count for nothing if Australia fails to beat an Iraqi side falling apart at the seams, though failure to do so would suggest the Socceroos don’t even deserve to qualify for Brazil in the first place.

But even if Holger’s Heroes make the World Cup, will it be enough for the German to retain his job?

Plenty of countries have sacked coaches in the wake of World Cup qualification and there’s still a year to go before the party starts in Brazil.

And the problem with Osieck’s reign hasn’t been his gaffes or unwillingness to ditch the old guard, it’s the fact that the Socceroos have played some of the worst football recently seen by Australian fans.

It shouldn’t be overlooked that the Jordan team which Australia quite rightfully spanked at Docklands last Tuesday night was a decidedly poor one.

But then, nor should it be overlooked that arguably Australia’s two best players – Robbie Kruse and Mark Milligan – are more or less products of the A-League. Would Pim Verbeek have given them a run?

The fact remains that if Osieck had better players at his disposal, he may have produced better performances and results.

But even if Australia qualifies for the World Cup under Osieck’s tenure, then what? There’s every chance the Socceroos will be slaughtered by the first competent team they face.

At the end of the day, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that one swallow doesn’t make a summer and one win over Jordan doesn’t gloss over what has been a dreadful qualifying campaign.

And even if the Socceroos reach Brazil – and let’s hope they do it in style in front of a big crowd in Sydney on Tuesday night – one point still remains.

We need to talk about Holger Osieck and what we want and expect from our national team coaches, irrespective of whether Australia qualifies for the World Cup or not.

Mike Tuckerman is a Sydney-born journalist and lifelong football fan. After lengthy stints watching the beautiful game in Germany and Japan, he settled in Brisbane, and was a leading Roar football columnist from December 2008 to July 2014.
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